It’s always helpful when Hallmark can give us a clue about whom to appreciate and when. Oh is it time for that one day a year when we acknowledge mothers? Nope, no, it’s next week. Don’t do it today, it’s the wrong day. Don’t buy yourself flowers, do not book a massage and put that turkey down, that’s another holiday. Wait until that random day in May to be grateful for your mom, and have your kids value you. And then at midnight, don’t forget to slip back into the rags you sport for the rest of the year. Which is why I’m opting out. I do not want flowers (which is helpful because nor will I get any) I do not want to go to a “Mother’s Day brunch” where they jack up the price like they do on Valentine’s. In fact, I did lots of food shopping yesterday to ensure that I would not have to leave the house on Mothers’ Day in Malibu, and face yet another bleary-eyed mom receiving her one dutiful lunch a year. Fuck. That. We’ll eat in.
As a soon to be divorced parent, I am not entitled to the gifts-from-the-kids-that-are-really-from-daddy that masquerade as children’s thoughtfulness. Luckily, the school forces them to make a card. I imagine the teacher, “You can’t go to recess unless you make that card for your mom,” as the kids groan in protest. I already got one from the nine-year-old, and it was adorable—a small orange rectangle of cardboard that said “I love you with all my heart” with some hearts drawn around it in pencil and I love it! It meant almost as much to me as a couple of weeks ago, when we went to a restaurant and apropos of nothing, my kid wrote “I will love you forever” on a dinner napkin and gave it to me. I cried in public, embarrassing my children yet again, then cried again later when I realized I’d lost the napkin somewhere between the restaurant and the market where we went to get ice cream afterwards. There’s a lot of crying involved in parenting, not least of it by the kids.
I do not need the acknowledgement of my children at this point. Unlike some other things in my life, I do not parent for applause. (I would gladly take applause after housework though.) If you waited for a standing ovation from your kids anytime you did something for them, you might still be waiting as rigor mortis claimed you. I get affection, love and spontaneous bursts of gratitude from my two boys daily, and I grab on to these sporadic surges like a dying woman in the desert. However, I do not require them. Acknowledgement is not appropriate from kids, but I demand consideration, because I’m going to send them into the world one day; they don’t get to be rude little punks who don’t listen, or who think it’s normal that a woman slaves away for them while they sit on their butts and do nothing. It’s a karmic thing—I raise kids who are not assholes, and perhaps I will encounter less of them in my daily life.
I do what I do as a parent because I do it. I show up, and cook, and obsess about whether I handled situations correctly, because what’s the alternative? Getting into my car, driving away, and letting them starve? Believe me, I’ve been tempted, especially during the crying and whining years. I don’t even know how I endured it all honestly. I recently got my first tattoo, and anyone who tells you it doesn’t hurt is lying, but it still wasn’t as painful as being a parent. The pain of the needle is finite; parenting is forever. Worrying that your kid will stay healthy and happy never ends, but the good news is that when they are doing well, so is flow the gratitude, and you get to keep that as a little parenting “perk.” It’s a gratitude so profound, it can only lead to more crying.
Motherhood is such a thankless job that if they advertised it, no one would apply. In the recent viral video #worldstoughestjob kids given a description of what is involved in parenting were incredulous. Billed as a Director or Operations, it promised twenty-four hours a day, no sitting down, and you would only eat and sleep at the behest of your “associate.” And all for no pay? “Isn’t that illegal?” demands one entitled millennial. It’s cute, and might make you blubber for a minute and totally make you call your mom, until you find the next really cool cat meme, at which point it will recede into the back of your consciousness normally reserved for other Internet dust-balls.
As my friend and educator, producer, actor and all round DILF Luis Moro says, we all have to step into our role as “professional parents” to claim a sense of empowerment. He also believes it is not advisable to qualify parenting as the most important thing you do, but rather to lead by the example of your life.
Is parenting my first priority? Unequivocally. Every decision I make is filtered through the prism of how it will effect my kids, which may explain why I’m still living in the same house as my ex-husband so I can better co-parent with him, and also why I’m often furious. But parenting is as important as my creative goals, and aspirations, my soul’s dreams and desires and everything else involved in being a human working on some kind of positive trajectory of forward growth, and for those, as for motherhood, one day of celebration is not enough.
Do you know what I want for Mothers’ Day? I want to get back into acting on stage, as this has fallen by the wayside in recent years and I love it with all my heart, and believe it or not it is another thing I don’t care if ends in applause. Also I’d like a boyfriend under thirty that I can have TONS of sex with, who will also inspire, challenge and adore me, and whom I eventually won’t have to hide from my kids. That would be nice, please do send him right over, Hallmark… And another tattoo. Eventually, if I keep on my current course, I’m sure I will have all three of these things. The one thing I do not need to get is a tattoo of anything to do with parenting. “MOM for life” on my bicep is not necessary, because that shit is already grafted bone deep and there is no process to remove it, even on days when I might wish there were…